Fateful Friday

I don't overstep my boundaries, but I cannot be just an onlooker anymore. With only two months of association, Kishan's life and mine have become intertwined. Our children are at the base of this chaos. Kishan is an entrepreneur. He is a widower who solely bore the responsibility of bringing up his son.

Until two weeks ago. His son, Aakrush, was five years old when he died. My seven-year-old kid, Dev has been under the scanner ever since. The accident happened on a fateful Friday. I wish I'd been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered. As they call it now. A murder.

 How can a seven-year-old commit such a heinous crime? But the “eyewitnesses” are convinced that Dev did what he did in cold blood. And they won't let Kishan have the end of it until he has seen my son done for life. It is in my hands now, to save Dev from charges. That's how I started researching on Aakrush’s history and looking for flaws in Kishan's upbringing. I have given all my time for this because a Dad will always stand by his son to guard him. I owe so much to Dev.

Our Lives

I'm Vishwas, a chef in a beach hotel. Our business is centered around the vacations. On other days, the staff is spared if prior notice is given. My wife, Maya, is a marine engineer. For the most part of the year, she stays away from home. Dev is our only son. He's not as good in academics as other children of his age are but his superior athletic skills make up for it. He is generally not a troublemaker. He has developed his own sense of right and wrong in just seven years. Maya got her first posting when Dev was two. Since then, he has been my joy and responsibility. I used to work in a restaurant earlier. I started working in their beach outlet two months ago when we moved to Jeevan Apartments for my convenience. Kishan has been a resident here for ten years and when he married, he set his family here as well. I came to know that Kishan's wife had a miscarriage before Aakrush. Yet, their longing for a child made them try again. And with Aakrush's birth, his mother passed away. The strain was too much for her body to withstand. Kishan found himself helpless. His parents helped him for a few months while his in-laws blamed him for their daughter's death. After that, Aakrush grew under the care of a babysitter, Yamuna, till he was old enough to be sent to a kindergarten school. Those few years left a mark on him and ended up shaping his character.

Kid's Talk

Dev had told me that Aakrush used to teach the kids "wrong things", even before the accident. I didn't attach much importance to it back then. I just told him that he should do only what he thinks is right. Maybe if I had taken it more seriously, I might have realized the danger lurking above all of them. After Aakrush's death, I sought the kids out for an inquiry. I had to persuade them to speak to me against their parent's will. It is very difficult to make kids talk. But, when they speak, they don't lie. I just had to convince them that whatever they say will not harm them or their friends. The kids were all aged between four to eight years. It was remarkable to know that a five-year-old could have exerted such control over them given that it all transpired under our noses and we, parents, remained ignorant. 

The kids were in a state of shock but their eyes betrayed relief. Aakrush had been abetting violence. He would lead some of the boys to break any new toy that one of them gets. Whereas, he would lend his own cycle to his friends but make them promise to crash it on another or a compound wall. Three of the lot were girls, all of them older than Aakrush. Aakrush never spoke to them directly. However, he would take one of the boys alone and ask him to kiss them, rarely to bite them. He would tell them that they should not let the girls play with them and that the girls only liked to be touched and not to be included in their games.

I found these reports shocking. How could a kid have developed such vile ideas and manage to force them on his peers? All these incidents, when isolated, didn't look so alarming. evertheless, they helped me identify a behavior pattern. One that must have been influenced by what he had witnessed. Six months ago, Kishan had enrolled him in a kindergarten nearby. However, the shrewd kid found ways to elude his caretakers by playing sick. Kishan would not be back from work as early and he imagined it would be safer to have him play in the courtyard than have him locked in their house.

On those days, he would take his pencil and draw knives and handcuffs on the walls and scribble something filthy along with his drawings. When I inspected the works of his childish hand, I was appalled by the fact that none of us had noticed these before. I couldn't imagine the kind of person he would have become had he lived. Aakrush didn't like newcomers. He despised Dev and used to tell the other boys that Dev would steal their properties if they befriend him. As Dev knew to play cricket, he soon made friends with the older guys. He was accepted by everyone else and Aakrush still found it hard to acquaint with a new entrant. He tried in vain to get other boys to attack Dev or pull him into a fight.

My son did his best to avoid him and be obedient to me.
Until that Friday...

The Course of Yamuna

When I knew Aakrush was under the supervision of the Yamuna, the babysitter, I was sure she would have had some influence on him. At least, she would enlighten us on any previous incidence of violence he had shown.

The Yamuna had come for the funeral. I saw her leaning on a man's shoulders, sobbing gently. He was taller than her, about five foot eight, and looked the least bit sad. In fact, he seemed to have a smirk on his face. I followed her for a few days. I thought I needed to know her movements before approaching her. She was twenty years old, still working as a babysitter in a home away from the main city. On three out of four days I kept a watch on her, she let a man inside the house during her work hours. The same man who had accompanied her at the funeral. He timed his visits in the afternoon, around the hours of the baby's sleep. He would leave the house just an hour before Yamuna's duty ended.

One day he didn't turn up, the owner of the house returned earlier than he did on the other days. Apparently, he knew this beforehand. All of this made me suspicious of her behavior when she was employed by Kishan. I felt that I definitely needed her statement to prove my son's innocence. I went to her house on Saturday morning with no announcement. I wanted the element of surprise to keep her from fabricating lies as I couldn't be sure if she also believed that Dev was guilty.

She was alone, just as I had hoped. She didn't recognize me. I and Dev were scorned by the mourners that we decided to stay distant from the funeral party. I didn't want to coerce her unnecessarily so spoke very softly. But, I failed to gain her sympathy. She refused to speak to me about Aakrush. She would not even accept money in return for any information she had.
So, I used her “boyfriend” to leverage her to speak. It was a gamble but I went on with it and told her that I knew her boyfriend used to frequent by the house while she was supposed to be taking care of Aakrush. That did the trick. When shock passed over, she began to cry. 
This is the story she told me. I never knew if I should pity her or be repulsed.

“He is Manav. He was my senior in school. I was attracted to him but it was only a harmless crush. When he reciprocated, our relationship began. We were quite bold, maybe egged on by our immaturity. We loved each other's company. Our secret encounters continued. Sometimes, in school, sometimes, in one of our houses. I grew distracted from studies. I dropped out of school. That was when I took the job at Kishan’s house. 

By then, Manav had finished school. The new set up gave us more privacy and opportunity.
I would let him in while Aakrush slept. Aakrush never disturbed us. Even when he was sleeping, he was a quiet child. I used to wonder what he observed and what went on in his mind. 
I did feel occasionally guilty, but Manav convinced me that Aakrush was too young to notice anything or complain. I used to go stiff when  Manav when lingered around him. I tried to keep him away most of the time because Manav was often aggressive. Between us, I liked his violent ways as I knew his loving self that lies underneath.

Yet, the house was so accommodating that we didn't have to look for other places to meet in until my employment ended.” 

I didn't interrupt her soliloquy. I just needed some answers.
“Were there times when Manav bit you or you bit him, during your act?”
“We used to kiss and bite each other a lot”, she flushed.
“What did you do when Aakrush cried?”
“I would have already changed his napkins and fed him before calling Manav. So, he would only cry for attention. Manav or I would switch on the Television and play it aloud and drown his voice.”
“Can you tell me if Aakrush was unaware of Manav’s presence?”
“No. He was very clever. He could have known Manav.”

I started to leave when I was done with her. She requested me not to endanger her current job. I said only if she promised to give up her indulgences during work.

Glimmer of Hope

I compiled all these “reports” and attached photos of Aakrush's scribblings and that of Manav and handed them over to Kishan. I needed him to see the violent side of Aakrush and know that whatever he had been through was only a result of his own actions. After much persuasion, he agreed to look into it.

The next day after that, Dev came to me sobbing. I felt sorry for him. What would he have gone through knowing there was someone who hated him for no fault of his and forced others to do the same? I took him on my lap and caressed him. He rubbed his tears off and looked straight into my eyes.
He said,
“Dad, would you ever hate me?”
“Son, I'm here to protect you. Even if you are wrong, I will love you no less.”
Then he sighed and opened up for the first time after Aakrush's death.

“On Friday evening, I was playing cricket with two of my friends. A group of younger boys were building something with sand while Aakrush was flicking stones. Two girls were skipping and giggling at them. They were taller than me and they smiled at me and I smiled back.

Suddenly, Aakrush became angry. He started throwing stones at them. He messed up the sand  blocks and forced his friends also to throw stones at the girls. I felt bad for them but, I didn't do anything. When I got the bat, I was still staring at Aakrush. Shiva threw the ball. I hit the ball without aiming. The ball hit Aakrush in the head. He missed his balance and slipped. His head again hit the stones nearby and he started bleeding. His friends immediately came to me and beat me for killing Aakrush. I didn't want to kill him, Daddy. I wished he was a good boy. But, I would never kill anyone. Will they send me to jail, Dad?
Will you hate me then?”

He cried inconsolably.
I wiped his eyes and asked him if he had told this to anyone else. He shook his head no.
I was relieved. But not really.

Kishan was standing at our doorstep. He was crying.  I was scared. I started pleading him to listen to me. But, he slowly walked inside and sat with us. He hugged Dev and said he was sorry.

He had seen Manav lurking around the street a couple of times. He said it was all his fault. He sobbed, saying that he wasn't an able single father. He lost his son because he failed to give him the guidance he needed.

He withdrew his statement. He apologized and agreed that his son's death was an accident.

Also, you may like to read a story of a Deaf-mute kid check out here

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